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Laura Pope Forrester Home + Art Environment on the Market

Posted in Gardens, Threatened Environments

 

A guest post by Ginger Cook of Deep Fried Kudzu, originally seen here.

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I was contacted a few months ago by a UGA faculty member for permission to use some of my photographs of the Laura Pope Forrester home in Ochlocknee, Georgia (which I granted) in paperwork to add it as a “Places in Peril” with the National Trust of Historic Preservation.


An entry for Laura Pope Forrester (they spell her surname differently, as it most often appears ‘Laura Pope Forester’) appears in the New Georgia Encyclopedia for her work as a self-taught artist in Ochlocknee who “created one of the state’s first outdoor art environments during the 1940s and 1950s. Her concrete figures, depicting such historical and literary personages as Nancy Hart and Scarlett O’Hara, came to be known as “Mrs. Pope’s Museum.”“

The AP reported on the site in 1961:
One of the most unique museums in the nation, containing more than 200 statues hand-carved by a Mitchell County woman…

Mrs. Forester’s inventiveness was almost as incredible as her talent.  Besides using scrap iron from junkyards, discarded tin cans and other waste material as braces for her statues, she painted the figures with liquids of many flowers and brightly colored berries…

…The sculptress, who created her first statue in 1900, died in 1953, at the Pope mansion in which she was born.  The museum is sponsored by a civic club and the Chamber of Commerce.

Two hundred life-size statues…plus she painted, including painting directly on her home.  In the early ’80s, the owner of the house reportedly had the statues destroyed in fewer than 48 hours.  A witness to what was left later records: “I remember going out behind the house and seeing just piles of faces and hands and such…”  

The author of ‘A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude’ includes a quote from the owner who arranged for the destruction as saying, “They had done passed their days of bein’ useful. So we’ve taken down just about all of ‘em.”

The author writes:
Based on the evidence that remains, this is one of the worst pieces of unconscious vandalism that one has ever heard of. How could the museums and historical societies and university art departments and collectors of the state of Georgia — or just local citizens with eyes in their heads — have allowed this destruction to take place?
—-


The home’s been on the market for a few months, and the price has been lowered to $153k. The photographs on the realtor.com listing don’t show the artwork out front, and doesn’t make any notation about it. Hopes are to have the site preserved, as some of the previous owners destroyed statuary. 

Materializing the Bible. by James S. Bielo (Miami University)

Posted in Gardens, Religious, Devotional & Spiritual

Materializing the Bible

By: James S. Bielo (Miami University)

pic-1-464The main attraction is a replica of the Garden Tomb, which many Protestant traditions claim to be Jesus’ true burial site (rather than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is favored by Eastern Orthodox and Catholic traditions). Perhaps visitors imagine Cincinnati as Jerusalem, a city on the doorstep of an open tomb.

 

It is revealing that an organizing category for SPACES is “Grottos, Religious, Spiritual, Devotional, Mystical Environments.” Artistry and creative production are durable parts of religious life, in officially sanctioned and off-grid spaces. Given this, it is no surprise that SPACES bolsters a work I began in July 2015 that similarly gathers a diverse collection of places.

 

Materializing the Bible is a digital scholarship project that curates Bible-based attractions around the world. The site builds the argument that seemingly different attractions are all expressions of a distinctive genre of place. That genre is defined by transforming the written words of the Christian Bible into physical, experiential environments. With the research help of a student at Miami University, we created the project to be an interactive gateway for exploring the global spread of Bible-based attractions. See  http://www.materializingthebible.com/.

 

Currently, the site is a portal to 194 attractions, organized by six sub-genres: re-creations of biblical stories; creation museums; biblical gardens; transmission museums; art collections; and, archaeology museums. Many attractions exemplify the SPACES conception of an art environment, such as the Desert Christ Park in Yucca Valley, California. Others mix the feel of an art environment with replications of a biblical past that strive toward historical authenticity, such as the House of Mary Shrine in Yankton, South Dakota.

 

As an anthropologist, I am most interested in what potentials these attractions promise for religious lives. In particular, how do they satisfy desires to experience and understand faith in ways that are materially oriented and sensuously engaged?

 

In March 2016, I visited the Garden of Hopein Covington, Kentucky. Completed in 1958 by an evangelical pastor, this small attraction sits on the backside of a working-class neighborhood. If you are not seeking it, you will not stumble on it. Situated atop a hill, the sound of I-75’s rushing traffic directly below saturates the soundscape as you realize an unencumbered view of Cincinnati’s skyline.

pic-3-v8dSPACES emboldens me to think more about how attractions function as art environments, opening new analytical avenues. For example, when biblical replicas and references that jump across time periods or cultural locations are arranged together, it is insufficient to merely proclaim anachronism. Such arrangements can express a distinct artistic vision, which may very well index a distinct theological vision. I look forward to continuing this exploration.pic-2-wfkNext to a footpath near the replica, there is a weathered and partially destroyed sign marking the planting of biblical flora. This borrows from the sub-genre of Biblical Gardens, where entire attractions are filled only with plants, trees, and shrubs named by scripture. The sign references 2 Chronicles 2:8, which has no prophetic link to the New Testament. But here, the presence of biblical flora is not about hermeneutics, it’s about aesthetics. The textual connection is less important than the immersive effect of the combined material elements.



Josep Pujiula's art environment threatened

Posted in Found Objects, Gardens, SPACES News, Threatened Environments

img2129As many of you know, for 45 years Josep Pujiula i Vila has been building one of the  most spectacular examples of public art in the world. Completely self-taught, he began building for his own enjoyment, yet has come to delight in sharing his work with others. At the height of its existence, his constructions—which were primarily created out of the flexible saplings that he gathered from the nearby river—included eight towers, some approaching 100 feet (30 meters) high, along with a labyrinth that snaked over the landscape over a mile (1.6 km) in length. It was a joyous work of art that was an inspiration to its thousands of international visitors each year, and it has been featured in newspapers, magazines, books, and television programs internationally.

 24-eastern-side-of-labyrinth

I have been studying and documenting Pujiula’s work since 2000. I have published numerous articles about him, and I also featured him in my book “Forms of Tradition in Contemporary Spain,” produced a DVD about his work, and have lectured on him widely in the US, France, Spain, and Italy. He is a dedicated, passionate artist who is involved 24/7 with his work, and although he works improvisationally, having had no training in art, architecture, nor engineering, he has been able to build marvels that have inspired all who have visited them.

 

Yet although Pujiula has asked nothing of anyone but to be left alone to make his art, he has been consistently targeted by the local authorities, who are threatened by his work, as it neither complies with local building codes nor with what this conservative community tucked into the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees understands as “Art.” Three times they have forced him to tear it down—citing fear of fire, concern for public safety, proximity to electrical wires and the freeway. Each time Pujiula has complied but, unable to stop working, he has always started up again. He is the quintessential irrepressible artist whose work has become his life.

 

70-josep15After the second demolition, Pujiula began to work in concrete and steel, using found objects to create numerous sculptures as well as a lyrical cascading fountain, taking advantage of the runoff from a huge drainage pipe installed underneath the nearby freeway. These concrete constructions do not bring with them the same kinds of issues as the wooden towers and labyrinth did: they will not burn, they are not impinging on electrical towers nor the freeway, and, as they follow the slope of the ground, they do not tempt visitors to climb to the heights, so the possibility for public endangerment is low. Yet, although the local authorities had originally indicated that he could retain this portion of his artwork, and could continue to work, they have just changed their minds, and have mandated its demolition as well. Immediately.

 

Works of public art created by self-taught artists are often in jeopardy, but in this case, we can do something about it. I ask your help to sign a petition that will simply ask the local mayor to allow this artist to continue to make his art. At 75 years old, he is breaking no laws and inciting no danger; rather, he is bringing enjoyment to young and old with his creativity and humor. Help us convince the mayor of Argelaguer (population 424) to reverse his edict of destruction, and allow Pujiula to continue to create an art environment that will be remembered and enjoyed for long after he is gone.

 

Click here to sign the petition; you’ll only need to give your name, email, and country of origin:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Save_one_of_the_worlds_great_art_environments/?criVneb

 

Many thanks!!

jo



Browse Blog Archives by Month
Highlights

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Preservation News

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Remembering Josep Pujiula i Vila (1937-2016)
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Materializing the Bible. by James S. Bielo (Miami University)
Gardens, Religious, Devotional & Spiritual

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Threatened Environments

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Found Objects

The SPACES website allows you to save your favorite art environments and share them with your friends or colleagues. Create your own portfolio of your favorites from environments in the online collection.

Send them to your friends, post them on Facebook or to your Twitter account!

Look for this button on pages that can be saved:

Add Page to my spaces